MONTEREY BAY, Calif. (KTVU) - A rare sighting of a killer whale feeding on a shark off the Monterey Coast has biologists buzzing after the battle between two of the world's most aggressive predators was caught by a drone camera earlier this week.
The high resolution video, shot by Slater Moore Photography, shows an adult Orca clutching a shark belly-up in its jaws and ultimately letting go so that calves could feed on the shark.
The pack -- or pod -- was made up of at least 25 orca whales, which are known to frequent the area in December.
Mary Jane Schramm, with the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, said the killer whales turn the Sevengill shark upside down in order to paralyze it.
"They flip them over on their backs and all of a sudden they slip into what's called tonic immobility," Schramm said. "Some animals if they're attacked by a predator, instead of fleeing or fighting, they simply become still, like you might have heard the expression "playing 'possum."
She said the defense mechanism may have led to the shark's demise.
"When I saw the footage today, it bore an uncanny resemblance to what we had witnessed in October 1997 in the Faralloness," Schramm said.
She was part of a small group that witnessed nearly the same feat of nature 19 years ago. At the time, it was unprecedented, although orcas attacking sharks and their cousins, sting rays, off the New Zealand coast have been well documented.
"Perhaps somehow this behavior has been picked up by killer whales in this hemisphere," Schramm said. "Consider New Zealand (and the) California coast. How many thousands of miles separate them? And yet perhaps it's a behavior that evolved individually."
Schramm says the video is invaluable because it gives us a snapshot into the dramas of the ocean that we don't normally get to see, including a look at a predatory relationship as well as a loving, nurturing one.
According to a report by GrindTV the shark appeared to be alive as it was passed from Killer Whale to Killer Whale. It may have been a teaching experience for the younger calves, according to the report.
The sighting has been called 'extremely rare.' Moore posted on Facebook, "So Lucky to get to see this!"
KTVU reporter Tara Moriarty contributed to this report.